Last week we visited one of our favourite towns, Bassano del Grappa, which is situated in the province of Vicenza and only a twenty minute drive from where we live. The castle dates from 1150 and was once in the hands of the notorious Ezzelino family.
We arrived at the start of the lunch break and found a park in the Viale dei Martiri. During the second world war, the mountains behind Bassano were a centre for partisan fighters. They organized raids on the main supply route from Germany to the troops stationed in Italy. In 1944 the Germans took revenge by marching up the mountain behind women, children and elderly local inhabitants. Any partisans discovered or civilians suspected of assisting partisans were killed. There were public hangings and shootings with families forced to watch. On 26th September they hanged 31 young men from the trees in this road, which is why it’s now called Martyrs’ Way. Every tree is shaped like a soldier’s helmet and bears the name of one of the victims and his age. So tragic!
We wandered down to the square where the Loggia dates from the early 15th Century; it would have been familiar to the characters in my novel Lady of Asolo.
We had lunch, pizza with mozzarella di bufala and fresh basil at the Pizzeria Marechiaro in Via Roma.
We headed for the Ponte degli Alpini which spans the River Brenta.
The bridge is first mentioned in the 11th century and has been rebuilt several times due to flooding or destruction during wars. It is still the original design by Palladio from 1569. The bridge is built of wood, making it more resilient to the fast flowing river. There’s a famous mountain song about two lovers who hold hands and give each other a kiss on the bridge, which is also beloved by the Alpini Regiment. Sul ponte di Bassano; là ci darem la mano; là ci darem la mano; ed un bacin d’amor. After a brief chorus and a kiss (a group of locals fell about with laughter), we took some pictures of the beautifully coloured palazzi and gardens on the river banks then warmed our cockles in the Grappa Nardini Shop.
Some think Basano del Grappa takes its name from the liqueur grappa, but it’s actually named after the mountain range behind the town. The name of the liqueur stems from grappolo, meaning a cluster of grapes. Grappa has been produced in Bassano since 1779 when Bortolo Nardini bought a grapperia on the Brenta River bank. The liqueur is made from the by-products of wine making – the seeds, stems and skins. The company is still run by members of the Nardini family. It’s an acquired taste – a bit like firewater – and high grade alcohol content means you have to take care, but a small amount works wonders for the digestion.
Eat our ice-cream and you will become more good-looking! How could we resist?